Is MMA Counterproductive to Muay Thai?

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How many times have you been watching an MMA fight and heard the announcer talk about a fighters ‘beautiful Muay Thai’. How many times have you heard Joe Rogan say ‘Beautiful leg kick’ even though the fighter he is referring to kicked his opponent square in the shin. Or ‘That guy has really good teeps and front kicks’, huh, what.

These are just some examples of how MMA helps and hurts the sport that we love. On one hand they are giving Muay Thai a lot more exposure by constantly talking about it but at the same time they are hurting it because either A. The fighters Muay Thai is garbage or 2. It isn’t even a Muay Thai technique that they are using. So yes, any exposure is good but misrepresenting the sport is counterproductive.

Anytime someone throws a leg kick or uses the clinch does not automatically make it ‘Muay Thai’. There is more than one martial art that uses techniques similar to Muay Thai so just because someone throws an elbow does not automatically make it ‘Muay Thai’. And the phrases ‘beautiful Muay Thai’ or ‘world class striker’ are as overly used as referring to every upcoming fight as “EPIC”. There are plenty of guys in MMA that have very good Muay Thai but just because someone has good stand up in MMA doesn’t mean that they have great stand up. You need to realize that these are two different sports. Yes they are similar in the sense that they both have stand up but that’s about it. A great wrestler with rudimentary stand up can look like a ‘world class striker’ only because they have no fear of being taken down. Whereas an actually world class striker can come off as basic because they know that most of their techniques will only result in them on their backs.

They call Anderson Silva a world class Muay Thai striker, but if you look at his techniques most of them resemble karate or tae kwon do, not Muay Thai, other than possibly his clinch or elbows. And it still surprises me that guys that have been in this sport for years still have very rudimentary Muay Thai or stand up skills, especially when it comes to elbows. Other than a select few you rarely see elbow techniques other than when someone is being held on the ground and it’s more of a forearm smash. I look at the two times Silva fought Franklin and his inability to defend against the clinch. Sure Silva’s clinch is good but he was doing day one ‘don’t ever use this as a defense’ defense to the clinch, both times.

I realize that there are a lot more things MMA guys have to focus on and don’t expect them to be able to hang with actual ‘world class strikers’(for the most part) but most of this stuff is just basics. I have trained with a lot of MMA guys over the years and am constantly surprised at how good some of their stand up is, yet in fights you rarely see it. I think a big part of this is that they don’t come from a stand up background and in fights you go to what you know; you go to your instincts. At the same time I was shocked the first time I realized how bad some of their stand up is, even some of the guys that have been world champs. I remember being at Toddy’s years ago and watching Master Toddy pretty much have to treat a certain ex world champ like a child in teaching him how to throw a straight punch, it just blew me away. I realize that stand up might not be their main focus yet after more than a decade in the sport you would think that some of this would just sink in, guess not. What are your thoughts on the level Muay Thai in MMA and why it has or hasn’t gotten better over the years?

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About Author

I was born in Reading, PA July 27th 1980 and spent the majority of my youth criss-crossing all over the United States. From Pennsylvania to New York, Georgia, Oregon, Colorado and then finally, in the summer of 94′, ending up in Vegas, where I have been ever since. I spent my teenage years not doing much other than partying day in and day out. I was already a full blown alcoholic by the time I turned 21. Luckily I came across Muay Thai when I was 16, seeing it on ESPN, although it did take me another 7 years to actually get started. I got into Muay Thai for one purpose, to be the best fighter that I could be. I gave up drinking two days before I stepped foot into the gym and never looked back, the rest is history.

You can keep up with me on my personal blog.

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